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Film review: 'Deathly Hallows Part 2' still conjures magic

July 19, 2011|By BOB GARVER | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • In this film publicity image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, from left, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe are shown in a scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2."
(AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, Jaap Buitendijk)

For nearly a decade the "Harry Potter" series has been working a unique brand of magic.

The films based on J.K. Rowling's beloved book series about a boy wizard have made for perhaps the most consistently entertaining movie franchise in recent memory.

The franchise has consisted of eight films, all made with care and all box office hits.  Now the time has come for the grand finale. It is indeed bad news that we won't get to enjoy any more of Harry's adventures, but the good news is that the series is going out on a strong note.  

When we last saw Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), he was on a quest with his friends, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).  Voldemort had divided his soul into seven pieces called Horcruxes that must be found and destroyed before he can become mortal and therefore stoppable. So far only three of the Horcruxes have been compromised and Voldemort's terror attacks have become more and more brutal. It's do or die time.  

"Deathly Hallows Part 1" saw our heroes searching for the Horcruxes somewhat aimlessly, they have plenty of direction in "Part 2."  An early sequence sees them breaking into a bank vault, but the locale soon shifts to their magic school, Hogwarts.  

Given the prominence of the institution over the course of the series, it is the only fitting place for the climax. Of course, it is a much uglier Hogwarts than the one that Harry fell in love with all those years ago.

Gone is the kindly, wise Professor Dumbledore and in his place is high-ranking Voldemort henchman Severus Snape (Alan Rickman). Still, most of the students show the highest loyalty toward Harry and the forces of good when Voldemort himself invades the grounds for a final showdown with his arch nemesis.  

Unlike the other "Harry Potter" films, "Deathly Hallows Part 2" takes place over a relatively short period of time. Most of the other chapters unfold over the course of the school year.  This one is almost entirely confined to a 24-hour window, excluding the epilogue. This is a good thing because the storytelling here doesn't feel so rushed, a problem that plagued the last few installments.  

The shorter time frame gives some of the heavier moments a chance to sink in. It's a refreshing change of pace, literally. One complaint: the Battle of Hogwarts sequence could have used more detail. After eight films, even the most minor of characters are important to us. We want to see how they fare in this, the most crucial experience of their lives.  

I mentioned that the film has heavy moments. The theme of sacrifice has run throughout the "Harry Potter" series, but it has never been more prevalent than it is here. Some characters even make the ultimate sacrifice. This is by far the most emotional of the "Harry Potter" films. It is so emotional in fact that certain audience members were heard audibly sobbing during a particular scene. People can argue about whether that's an appropriate reaction for a movie about fictional wizards, but the bottom line is that legitimate crying occurred. It cannot be denied that the film has that effect on people.  

And so we say good-bye to the "Harry Potter" series. There really is no franchise quite like it. The mere fact that eight films were made in under a decade is an impressive feat, and then the films are all impressive in and of themselves.  "Deathly Hallows Part 2" is a respectable conclusion to a film series worthy of a great deal of respect. It's almost as inspiring as reading the books.    

Three Stars out of Five.

  
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" is rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of action violence and frightening images. Its running time is 125 minutes.  

    

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